The most important day of the year for ‘Miss Congeniality’ fans is here

It’s April 25, and you know what that means.

Well, you know what that means if you’re a fan of the 2000 romantic comedy “Miss Congeniality,” filmed in Austin and starring local celebrity Sandra Bullock. April 25, of course, is the answer Miss Rhode Island (played by Heather Burns) gives when asked by Miss United States host Stan Fields (a delightful William Shatner) what her “perfect date” is. Watch the clip below.

We wouldn’t go so far as to say today is not too hot, Cheryl. Monday started muggy, with a high of 87 degrees.

(Photo by Ron Batzdorff)

(Photo by Ron Batzdorff)

In honor of this most auspicious of dates, read the American-Statesman’s December 2000 review of the film, by then-film critic Chris Garcia. Spoiler: He did not care for it.

Watching “Miss Congeniality” is like hanging out with a bunch of people whose horrible jokes crack each other up. Your dismay swells as the drollery, against all natural laws, only gets worse. You bargain with God for a painless end to it all.

Written by a clutch of TV hacks and shot in Austin and San Antonio, this feeble fluff barely registers as a major motion picture. It stars Sandra Bullock as an FBI agent who goes undercover as a contestant in the Miss United States Pageant to foil a terrorist plot.

The hackneyed twist is that Bullock’s agent is an avowed tomboy who thinks beauty pageants are for bubble-headed bimbos. Characterization is beyond the facile script, so we never get an inkling why she’s this way.

High comedy is supposed to be had when a swishy consultant (a supercilious Michael Caine, outclassing this rot) gives her a va-va-voom makeover in preparation for the contest, which lowbrow director Donald Petrie (“Ritchie Rich”) stages like a Wal-Mart display of plastic zombies. There is no drama, no laughs as Bullock hardly miraculously becomes one of the girls. Without the self-reflection of satire, the movie has the nerve to deride pageants, then strike a phony conciliatory note in the end.

Bullock gropes for dizzy screwball charm — her character’s name, Gracie, is a cue — but the repeated pratfalls and snorty laughs draw a straight line to Suzanne Somers, circa 1979.

Bullock long ago gave up trying to be a real actress, slumping into roles that ask of her little more than excellent grooming and sorority girl pep. Her recent films, uniformly bad, have been indistinguishable vanity pieces that chart a slippery descent into dashed promise.

If anything, the movie will trigger frissons of recognition in local viewers. Getting good screen time are Starbucks at Sixth and Congress, the Stephen F. Austin Hotel, the Dog and Duck Pub, Bass Concert Hall and, courtesy of the Austin Film Society, a hangar at the old Mueller airport. There is a cameo by a Schlotzsky’s sandwich, which steals this water-brained show.


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